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Thursday 21 May 2009

Hold for a Minute

My own fault, I know: I didn’t pack a paperback. So even if it was only two one and a half hour flights each way, at some point I had to end up with the in flight magazine. And it threw up an interesting thought on the extent to which airlines can pursue a green agenda.

I was flying with Swiss, or more correctly a Swiss partner (Helvetic), but the blurb is universal: the fleet is held to be getting “greener” as new aircraft are delivered, these emitting less carbon dioxide than their predecessors. Well, it can get as green as it likes, but one aspect of air travel stops attempts at greening in their tracks, and that’s the increasingly congested airspace.

Departure from Manchester was delayed by congestion somewhere between there and Zürich, but fortunately the engines had not been started. On the way back from Budapest, we were well into the journey, and descending into Zürich, when the congestion meant entering a holding pattern, which means spending a lot of time turning left while not getting much nearer the destination airport.

Having spent an extra fifteen minutes going round in circles on the approach to Zürich, we were then treated to ten minutes’ more of the same before arriving back at a typically wet and chilly Manchester. So that’s 25 minutes of fuel burnt just to hang around (not burning the fuel being off the list of practical options). More of that is probably enough to wipe out any greening effect.

Just how that particular circle gets squared, without a reduction in the number of flights, is not an easy one.

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